La Liga Review 2010/11: Forlan causes a stink as Jose makes another enemy


March began with Diego Forlán’s sulks and snippy comments to the press that he wasn’t exactly opposed to the concept of leaving Atlético supposedly leaving his teammates a tad miffed.

El País claimed the squad had adopted a new policy on the pitch called “not one ball to Blondie!” - a strategy Quique Sánchez Flores wearily denied, complaining that he was “tired of these situations”. Later in the month, the Atlético boss dropped the first hint he would be packing away his eyeliner and leaving the club at the end of season when noting that the Rojiblancos were “like a plane in constant turbulence.”

However, the one placid part of Atlético’s existence last season was the team’s performances in their derbies against Real Madrid, with the Calderón club continuing their splendidly lousy tradition in Madrid-based match-ups with a fourth defeat from four in the year to leave the forces of Mordor unbeaten against Atlético in 21 straight matches.

Although Madrid did the usual deed when facing Atlético, they managed to break with tradition by easing past Lyon to make it through to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in seven years. This did not appear to change José Mourinho’s mood one bit though, with the Special One picking a fight with Málaga manager Manuel Pellegrini, his predecessor at Real Madrid, by ‘being honest’ in a press conference ahead of a league game and commenting that “if Madrid sack me then I’m not going to Málaga, I’m going to a big club in Italy or England.”

Not content with that fine piece of diplomacy, Mourinho ended up getting into a slanging match with a plucky journalist, with both calling each other a hypocrite during a debate over whether Mourinho’s endless moans were legitimate complaints or mere excuses.

Barcelona were also in decent form and ended March with a five point lead over Real Madrid, although AS were stretching the point a tad when describing it as a “perfect” month given the two points dropped against Sporting.

The off-the-pitch nastiness between the two big guns was cranked up a notch when radio station COPE claimed an unnamed Real Madrid official had complained that anti-doping controls in Spain were not strong enough and that Barcelona were benefiting from this. COPE quickly withdrew the story and Barça began legal action, with Gerard Piqué warning that “anyone who accuses us of doping is playing with fire.”

The Catalan press were even more outraged than normal, and did not hold back when it came to pointing the finger at who they thought was behind the story. “This dirty war begun by Mourinho and supported by Florentino is intolerable,” stormed Josep María Casanovas in Sport.

Hércules found themselves at the bottom of the table, and deservedly so. The club decided to react to this news by sacking coach, Esteban Vigo, who had problems being paid along with the rest of the squad and did not have a permanent training centre for his side. But despite this, Vigo was made the scapegoat with Miroslav Djukic taking over with no change in the Alicante club’s fortunes whatsoever.

Meanwhile, reports filtered through from Australia concerning Racing’s owner, Ali Syed, and accusations of fraud in the region - accusations denied by the Indian-born businessman. However, it was almost impossible to get a straight answer from Syed, as sightings became an increasingly rare in Santander, leaving with club president Francisco Pernía to cover for his boss, churning out a string of excuses for his absence - from him enjoying a family birthday party at Euro Disney, to being grounded thanks to air traffic control problems.

The season's second strike threat fizzled out to nothing in rather typical fashion. This time the hubbub concerned Primera matches televised by free-to-air broadcasters and the league's desire for them to be shifted behind the fancy velvet curtain of pay-per-view televison - a wish at odds with a law ensuring at least one match a week would be broadcast for free. Fortunately common sense prevailed and the we were spared the shifting of the end of the league calendar to mid-June.